Tonight was my debut.
Three or four of my older sisters would play instruments and sing alto and tenor, but I was going to sing all by myself on one part of the chorus of a song called “I Know It Was God”. At 8 or 9 years old–I don’t recall how old I actually was–I would finally show everyone that I could sing a solo.
My older sister Joanna had made a name for herself. She sang like a lark and usually garnered rave reviews. My younger sister Monica had sung her first solo at 2 years of age. She had an indomitable spirit that scorned stage fright.
But finally, after all this time, I was getting my chance, a chance that seemed to be a long time in coming. After all, I was the Marshall who could not naturally carry a tune (inside or outside the bucket–it did not matter) and had to stand next to my younger brother so he could sing louder than me and cover my out-of-tune singing. And my microphone was usually turned off when I first began joining the family on stage.
The verses of the song we had prepared asked the questions: who put the stars in the sky? who made the universe? who made me? The first part of the chorus simply said, “I know it was God.” The rest of the chorus went on to say that there was “no such thing as Mother Nature” and that “I know in my heart” that God created it all.
My part was to sing the first part of the chorus twice. “I know it was God, I know it was God.” That was a total of ten words. I could do this, couldn’t I?
The church we were ministering at was meeting in a basement. I distinctly remember that the ground and sky were barely visible at the windows. We sang on a small stage set up near the back wall, damp cinder blocks behind us.
This was it–my moment to shine.
When we reached the chorus, I began singing, but my courage failed me. I broke down, tears spilling. Ashamed, I stood in abject misery on the stage for the rest of the song. I don’t remember if I continued singing.
After my debut, a consultation was held. The verdict: this song would be a “girls only” song, and the rest of my sisters would sing with us. Monica would sing with me on my part.
I had failed. Somehow I had not held up the Marshall name, and was now relegated to anonymity.
My melodrama is laughable now, but it was no laughing matter then. I felt sure I could never sing another solo. I had a few other smaller solos here and there . . . a verse or two. But I left the star solos to Joanna, Monica, or my brothers.
Not until I was around 12 or 13 did I get the chance to sing lead on a song, and it was many years before I felt comfortable doing that. I was in my twenties before I actually sang a real solo. My family tried to encourage me over the years, but I had to learn for myself what it means to conquer fear of the church special, fear of the stage, fear of so many people staring.
Your child may have the same fears.
Some fears may not go away easily. In fact, they may linger for years. But you can help your child overcome much of the stage fright represented by church specials.
Here are a few ideas:
- Encourage your child. Although it may seem silly to you, never mock your child’s fear of the stage. Their fear is real and valid. Instead, help them see that the fear of standing in front of people is natural, even normal. Help them see that others have the same fear, but that they can learn to control fear with God’s help.
- Let your child talk about the fear. If they know you will listen to them, they will feel more confident to overcome stage fright. Even if their fears are unfounded, help them work through them and find ways to fight fear. Find Scripture verses on fear that include a Godly response to this emotion.
- Pair your child with another confident child their age or an adult singer. Give them the feel of being on stage without the pressure of facing the crowd alone. It’s fine if they want to share a microphone with a sibling or stand close to you.
- Practice, practice, practice. The mind is a tricky thing, and at the last minute may blank or freeze. The last thing you want your child worrying about is a fear of forgetting words or their instrumental part. Build stage presence slowly.
- Keep working with your child. The goal is to help them become more comfortable on stage, to the point where they have learned to manage their fear. This may take a long time, but you will eventually see progress.
Stage fright is real. The good news is, your child can overcome stage fright–and learn to rely on God’s strength.